Thirteen hours. That’s how far Kenton and Sheila Young drove for the Southern Christian Writers Conference (SCWC) on June 8–9 at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa. They came from Des Moines, Iowa, for the weekend-long conference where writers, editors and literary agents gather to encourage each other in their passion for writing.
It was the Young’s first time at the conference and they said they were interested in it because it is a Jesus-centered conference. “There have been some great speakers,” Sheila Young said. “And I do appreciate it because it’s focused more on the Lord and not on capital.”
Melanie Dickerson, New York Times best-selling author and the Friday night keynote speaker, almost gave up writing before her first book was picked up, but she knew that wasn’t God’s plan for her.
“Every time I asked God about [giving up writing] He said, ‘I don’t want you to quit,’” the award-winning author said.
She’s glad she stuck with it and now sees her career as an author as her missions field. In fact, each of her 14 Christian fiction books (and counting) bring her back full circle to a desire she had growing up — to be a missionary because her books are being sold across Europe as well as the United States. They also have been translated into Polish and German.
“There’s a hurting world out there that needs our encouragement,” Dickerson said.
Saturday afternoon keynote speaker and outdoor sports writer, John Phillips, spoke on the importance of being business-minded as a writer. “You’ve got to know the business of writing to make a living as a writer,” Phillips said.
Other guest speakers included Ramona Richards, associate publisher of New Hope Publishers in Birmingham; Bruce Barbour, founder of Literary Management Group and co-founder of Barbour and Company; and Angela Benson, a seasoned writer who has written 14 novels, two novellas and a nonfiction book about writing. Workshops were led by a variety of communications professionals including Jennifer Davis Rash, editor-elect of The Alabama Baptist (TAB).
Pulitzer prize-winning writer and University of Alabama professor, Rick Bragg, was honored Friday night with the 2018 Joanne Sloan National Award for the Encouragement of Writing. Bragg said it meant a lot to be recognized for encouraging other writers instead of for his own writing career. “I wouldn’t have written a lick if I hadn’t had people nudging me along,” he said. “You can change the world with a sentence.”
Writers from all over the South come to SCWC every year to learn more about writing, publishing and marketing their books and articles.
Several also participate in the annual writing competition and a few Alabama Baptists were among this year’s winners:
Rita and Harry Moritz from Seddon Baptist Church, Pell City, took first and second place, respectively, in the poetry competition.
Michael Brooks, pastor of Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, brought home first place in the newspaper article competition, and Karen Allen of Meadow Brook Baptist Church, Birmingham, captured third place in the same competition. Brooks also was featured during the opening session of the conference to share reflections on how he has been encouraged throughout his writing journey.
Betty Fields, who has attended the conference for more than 10 years, said the conference is always very inspiring. “I come to get motivated and be inspired and learn new ways to market my book and to meet new friends,” she said.
Veteran writers David and Joanne Sloan, founders of SCWC and longtime members of First, Tuscaloosa, are proud of how the conference has grown and influenced Christian writers. “We’re really trying to help people and be constructive,” David Sloan said. “Our first conference had around 30 people and this year we had around 175.” As the conference wraps up its 27th year, the Sloan family hopes that it will continue to nurture, educate and encourage writers for many more years to come.
The conclusion of the conference also marks a change in leadership. The Sloans are retiring from SCWC and handing over the coordination of the conference to their daughter Cheryl Sloan Wray and their son Christopher Sloan — with assistance from their children and grandchildren
TAB also worked out details with the Sloan family to become an official partner with SCWC going forward.
“We look forward to the new partnership and hope to assist Cheryl and Christopher with expanded resources and opportunities as they build on an incredible foundation of what David and Joanne have built through the years,” Rash said. “The heart and spirit behind what SCWC represents and permeates will track perfectly with the mission and vision of TAB as well as our staff members who all have incredible hearts for Christ and community.”
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